Almost out of the blue, the Miami Marlins showed up to the Winter Meetings, with owner Jeffrey Loria in toe, prepared to splash the cash on an elite closer in an attempt to strengthen their bullpen and ‘shorten games’ next season.
On their radar was Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, and it would take a record-breaking offer to land one of their signatures. In the end, Melancon signed first with the Giants for $62 million, Chapman returned to the Bronx for $86 million, and Jansen agreed to terms with the Dodgers for $80 million yesterday.
With Jansen and Chapman, it appears as though Miami offered more money than the winning offer. Paying that much for a reliever would have been absurd before the 2016 season began, but the importance of a strong core of relievers was highlighted by the Indians in the playoffs, and the demand for dominant bullpen arms has since skyrocketed.
Down the line, though, the Marlins would have most likely regretted signing one of the top closers this winter to a mammoth contract. Relievers are notorious for sharp drop-offs in form, and Miami could have ended up with one very expensive (as one has to assume that the offers from Miami involved back-loaded payments, like the recent extensions Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich signed) and ineffective player in a few short years.
Additionally, the Marlins are a small-market team and paying a player that much for 60 innings a year did not make much sense from the outside looking in, neither did considering sending away a badly-needed first round draft pick in order to sign Jansen.
Whatever the reasoning was behind the trio of closers signing elsewhere, the Marlins have to move on, and they have the ability to put the $80 million dollars they saved to good use.
First of all, the focus of the organization can return to improving the rotation, which is arguably the weakest area of the club. Former Cub Jason Hammel is still available, and while he could prove to be expensive, he is possibly the best option Miami has at significantly improving their starting pitching.
If the Marlins still feel that upgrading the bullpen is the way to go, Brad Ziegler, Fernando Salas and Junichi Tazawa are all possibilities, and will prove to be comparatively cheap compared to the likes of Aroldis Chapman.
Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo could also fit in with the Marlins if the team is intent on making headlines, and spending a lot of money, this off-season. Chris Carter, while infamous for posting seriously low batting averages, hits a lot of home runs, and could also be an option, a much more cost-effective one than the other two mentioned in this paragraph.
Even though securing the services of any of the elite free agent closers that were available this winter would have turned the Marlins into an elite late-inning team, they will be able to get so much more for the $80 million they saved from missing out, should they choose to reinvest it. Just because Miami has not made a splash yet, does not mean that they cannot still have a successful winter.